Workshops | Talks | Concerts | a Sound Bath | a Roundtable | a Film and a Launch in an Online Festival – June 5th-6th, 2021
2021 marked the tenth anniversary of the Vocal Constructivists. We celebrated our journey with a series of events that encouraged an online audience to listen, learn, share, and engage. The festival through the square window playfully sequenced through these activities over two days. With no entrance fees, no mud, and enough space for all who wanted to pitch their virtual tents, this festival offered opportunities for creativity, participation, reflection, Q&A, and lively engagement with music-making. There were three structured “events” each day: the first involved a choice of seminars, the second featured guest speakers, and the third broadcast performances. The festival was offered in memory of Scratch Orchestra pioneer and broadcaster Carole Finer († March 2020).
Instructional sessions on singing experimental music online, creating DIY pieces with found sounds, listening in the virtual realm; a sonic meditation; spotlight talkson Pauline Oliveros’ 1971 Link and community music-making fifty years later with Kerry O’Brien and Adam Tinkle.
Festival Concert (including workshop guests)
Pauline Oliveros, In Consideration of the Earth (1998, live); Robert Ashley She Was a Visitor (1967, live); Carole Finer, Magic Carpet(1971); Ron Kuivila, Twelve Sounds Heard (2017); Zeynep Bulut, Soul-mates revised(2016); Michael Parsons, Walk (1969, live), Parsons, Silence and Waiting (2019); Oliveros, Rock Piece (1979, live); Margrit Schenker, Birds on a Long Wire (world premiere); Sound bath with Laraaji
Instructional sessions on using a zoom window as a stage, engaging in musical dialogue, analysing and making graphic score, a Micro Concert (with Linn D., Lauren Redhead, D. Edward Davis); roundtable discussionon network music-making and acoustic ecology (with Aki Pasoulas, Kerry Hagan, Jenn Kirby)
The Vocal Constructivists’ deconstruction of Mark Applebaum’s Metaphysics of Notation(2008) offers the insiders’ perspective on musicking the 12 panels of this 72-ft score. Charles Hutchins’ custom-made computer program enables remote collaboration and an ever-changing performance. The computer has its own editorial prerogative, to transform and manipulate audio samples in certain conditions, determined by the score. Applebaum initially offered no performance instructions. Although he later published a Handbook for the Metaphysics of Notation, he was determined not to exert compositional control over performances, as documented in Robert Arnold’s short film, There Is No Sound in My Head, and on the Innova DVD, The Metaphysics of Notation. The work moves between visual art and music; it is as much a musical filter as a musical prescription, with the score presenting conceptual substance through which the expressive energy of musicians must pass.
Watch the Vocal Constructivists Deconstructing Infinity (30 mins)
To get involved in the next version, register at https://infinity.vocalconstructivists.com/upload/login.php.
Barbara Alden is active as a composer, performer, teacher, and poet. She trained at Trinity College of Music London studying with Valda Aveling, Kenneth van Barthold, James Blades, and Douglas Mews, and at City Lit with Florence Wiese Norberg. From then to current work – or is it play? – with the Vocal Constructivists, she values life’s – and therefore art’s – quirkiness. Her extensive experience as a singing teacher ranges from professional students to amateurs. She has held teaching posts at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, and various Adult Education organisations. In 2017 she was one of the judges for the preliminary round of the Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition. She has directed choirs and trained children performing at Glyndebourne, Royal Opera, ENO, National Theatre and RSC and been voice coach for adult and youth theatre companies. Her article “Release Your Voice” was published in The Choral Singer’s Companion (Thames/Elkin, 2000) and she has given workshops to choral, drama, and personal development groups. Her work includes the rehabilitation of strained and damaged voices and the therapeutic aspects of voice for meditation and well-being.
Jane Alden is a musicologist, performer, and director with expertise in scribal cultures, manuscript studies, and performance practices of the medieval and modern eras. A Professor of Music and Medieval Studies at Wesleyan University, her publications include the monograph Songs, Scribes, and Society: The History and Reception of the Loire Valley Chansonniers (Oxford University Press, 2010) and a number of articles on medieval and contemporary topics. Jane is currently working on a book entitled Inscribed Experimentalism: The Music of the Scratch Orchestra, which examines the impetus behind Cornelius Cardew’s notational innovations. She is active as a director and singer and formed the Vocal Constructivists in 2011.
Mark Applebaum (born 1967, Chicago) is the Leland & Edith Smith Professor of Composition at Stanford University. His solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, operatic, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. He has received numerous commissions from organizations and artists including Betty Freeman, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Kronos Quartet, loadbang, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, I.C.E., Zeitgeist, MANUFACTURE (Tokyo), the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, the American Composers Forum, and Chamber Music America. Many of his pieces challenge the conventional boundaries of musical ontology: works for three conductors and no players, a concerto for florist and orchestra, pieces for instruments made of junk, notational specifications that appear on the faces of custom wristwatches, works for an invented sign language choreographed to sound, amplified Dadaist rituals, and a 72-foot long graphic score. Aphasia, for solo hand gestures, has been performed more than 300 times by over 60 players in 20 countries. Applebaum has engaged in intermedia collaborations, including That Brainwave Chick (with neural artist Paras Kaul), The Bible without God (with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company), Aphoristic Fragment (with animator Anna Chupa), Interactive Sound Pavilion (with architect David Perkes), Spring Migration (with choreographer Brittany Brown), and projects with the laptop DJ ensembles Digital Cutup Lounge (Hong Kong) and Tricky OL (Japan). Engagement with the visual arts is represented by his Metaphysics of Notation (2008). Mark has built electroacoustic instruments out of junk, hardware, and found objects, written pop songs, and is active as a jazz pianist. Additional information and announcements of upcoming performances may be found at www.markapplebaum.com.
Robert Ashley (1930–2014) was an American composer best known for his operas and other theatrical works, many of which incorporate electronics. She Was A Visitor (1967) is the Epilogue to his opera that morning thing, written after the deaths of three female friends. It was intended to be understood as a form of rumour, with the chorus divided into groups, each headed by a leader. A lone speaker repeats the title sentence throughout the entire performance. The separate phonemes of this sentence are picked up freely by the group leaders and are relayed to the group members, who sustain them softly and for the duration of one natural breath.
Zeynep Bulut is a composer and Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. She received her Ph.D. in Critical Studies/Experimental Practices in Music from the University of California at San Diego (2011), M.A. in Visual Arts Visual Communication Design from Sabanci University (2002) and B.A. in Sociology from Bogazici University, Istanbul (2000). She also studied opera in the State Conservatory of Mimar Sinan University (1996-1999), and ethnomusicology in MIAM (Centre for Advanced Studies in Music) at Istanbul Technical University (2003-2005). Her research interests include voice and sound studies, experimental music, sound and media art, technologies of hearing and speech, digital media and culture, deaf performance and culture, and music and medicine. She is currently completing her first book, titled Building a Voice: Sound, Surface, Skin, which theorizes the emergence, embodiment, and mediation of voice as skin, drawing on nonverbal voice in experimental music and interactive media art. Her soul-mates was originally written in 2007, but revised for performance by EXAUDI in 2016. Zeynep has exhibited sound works, composed and performed vocal pieces for concert, video and theatre. For more info, see https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/zeynep-bulut
D. Edward Davis is a composer of electronic and acoustic music. His work often engages with the sounds of the environment, exploring processes, patterns, and systems inspired by nature. Recent performers of his work include the New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble, the Witches Duo, Musica Nova, Callithumpian Consort, the Williams College Percussion Ensemble, Soundry Ensemble, Red Hedgehog Trio, yMusic, the Duke New Music Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, the Wet Ink Ensemble, violinist Mari Kimura, pianist Ingrid Lee, and flutist Dalia Chin and vocalist Kate McDuffie.
Carole Finer (1936–2020) was a founding member of the Scratch Orchestra. She studied fine art at the Chelsea College of Art, where she appeared in the 1959 student film Food for a Blush; worked as a typographer and graphic designer; and taught at London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts) and at Camberwell School of Art. Her Magic Carpetwas created in 1971 and included in the Scratch Anthology of Compositions. A fine banjo player, sound recorder, and musical traveler, she also developed a career as a radio presenter with a weekly program, Sound Out, on the arts radio station Resonance104.4 fm. These programs provide a veritable archive of experimental, improvised, folk, American Old Time, and contemporary classical music. In a commemorative piece in The Wire (April 2020), Fari Bradley drew attention to the remarkable double-length episode in which Carole interviewed Stella Cardew (in September, 2008), which provides rare documentation of the female perspective on the Scratch Orchestra. Carole also broadcast field recordings from trips to India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. Her publications include the alphabet book for children Pictures and Sounds (Philograph Publications, 1963). Carole’s participation in bluegrass circles was beautifully documented in Richard Gooderick’s short film Take it away: Carole Finer (vimeo.com/808512). In 2017, Carole and Stefan Szczelkun conducted a three-day public workshop in Athens as part of the Documenta arts festival. She featured prominently in the 50th anniversary of the Scratch Orchestra celebration at Morley College in 2019. The London Improvisers Orchestra released Hive in honor of Carole in March 2020.
Kerry Hagan is a composer and researcher working in both acoustic and computer media. She develops real-time methods for spatialization and stochastic algorithms for musical practice. Her work endeavors to achieve aesthetic and philosophical aims while taking inspiration from mathematical and natural processes. In this way, each work combines art with science and technology from various domains. Her works have been performed in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas. Kerry performs regularly with Miller Puckette as the Higgs whatever, and with John Bowers in the Bowers-Hagan Duo. As a researcher, Kerry’s interests include real-time algorithmic methods for music composition and sound synthesis, spatialization techniques for 3D sounds and electronic/electroacoustic musicology. Her research has been presented in international conferences around the world. In 2010, Kerry led a group of practitioners to form the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association, where she served as President until 2015. Currently, Kerry is a Lecturer at the University of Limerick in the Digital Media and Arts Research Centre. She is the Principal Investigator for the Spatialization and Auditory Display Environment (SpADE) and President of the International Computer Music Association.
Charles Céleste Hutchins was born in San Jose, California in 1976, and lives in London, England. Growing up in Silicon Valley, he started programming at a young age and has continued to do so, even after leaving dot coms to pursue music composition. He uses live synthesizer patching and his computer to do things that his analogue synthesizer cannot do, including just intonation, granular synthesis and networking. His most recent work has concentrated on live laptop performance, especially in an ensemble setting. All of his work contains an openness to unpredictability and a possibility of crashing. Hutchins attended Mills College, where he studied with Maggi Payne and acquired a love for the sound of analog electronics. In 2005, he graduated with an MA from Wesleyan University, where he studied with Ron Kuivila and Anthony Braxton. Following that, he attended the CCMIX course in France and the Sonology course at the Royal Conservatory of the Netherlands and in 2012, completed a PhD at the University of Birmingham, where he studied with Scott Wilson and was a founding member of the Birmingham Laptop Ensemble. As an extension of that, he co-founded the Network Music Festival, dedicated to music made using computer network performance, which most recently ran as a telematic event in 2020. In addition to composing and performing, Hutchins is a lecturer in the music department at the University of Kent. He is also a member of the board of the San Francisco festival and record label, Other Minds. For more information, see https://www.berkeleynoise.com/celesteh/podcast/.
Jenn Kirby is a composer, performer and music technologist. Her output includes contemporary instrumental composition, electroacoustic music, sound art, noise music, experimental-pop, laptop orchestra performance and solo live electronics. She builds software and re-purposes controllers as musical interfaces to create and perform gestural live electronic music. Her current research is focused on developing new methods of performer agency in live electronic music and utilizing audio-visual symbiosis to enhance audience engagement. Jenn is the founder and director of the Swansea Laptop Orchestra and a founding member of the Dublin Laptop Orchestra. She is the president of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association and a lecturer in music at the University of the West of Scotland.
Ronald Kuivila (born 1955), University Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, composes music and designs sound installations that revolve around the unusual homemade and home-modified electronic instruments he designs. He pioneered the use of ultrasound (In Appreciation) and sound sampling (Alphabet) in live performance. Other pieces have explored compositional algorithms (Loose Canons), speech synthesis (The Linear Predictive Zoo), and high voltage phenomena (Pythagorean Puppet Theatre). Kuivila has performed and exhibited installations throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In Twelve sounds heard (2017) each singer chooses phrases from Pauline Oliveros’s essay “Some Sound Observations.”
LARAAJI is a musician, multi-instrumentalist, mystic and laughter meditation practitioner based in New York City. He attended Howard University, a historically black university in Washington D.C. on a scholarship to study composition and piano. LARAAJI’S experiments and explorations with the open tuned electric autoharp/zither began with a gentle nudge from his divine guidance. In 1976, in Queens, NY, he had gone into a pawn shop to trade his guitar for much-needed cash, but was guided to instead acquire the autoharp/zither in the store window. Heeding this mystical and startling guidance, he left the shop with a Kentucky Blue Grass instrument he had never touched before. But within a few weeks, LARAAJI had discovered a new sound vocabulary with this 36-stringed American folk instrument. After open-minded experimentation with altered tunings, LARAAJI arrived at a deeply engaging and exotic new age music performance sound, which he sometimes refers to as “Celestial Vibration,” recalling an earlier paranormal sound hearing experience. LARAAJI began studying Eastern mysticism and improvising trance-inducing jams on his modified autoharp, processed through various electronic effects. In 1979, Brian Eno saw LARAAJI playing in Washington Square Park and invited him to record an album for his seminal Ambient series (Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, released 1980). Since then LARAAJI has recorded over 50 solo and collab albums, the latest of which are three solo piano improvisation LPs, SUN PIANO, MOON PIANO & THROUGH LUMINOUS EYES. He also conducts healing laughter playshops around the world. See http://laraaji.blogspot.com/ and follow @edwardlgordon
Linn D. is active as a movement artist, teacher, singer, and choreographer. She was in the Scratch Orchestra Yggdrasil, Chamber Pot, and the London Musicians’ Collective in the 1970s, and also worked as an actor, dancer, and singer in various kinds of theater. She sang in the first staged performance of Tom Phillips’ 1969 opera Irma. She toured with various groups in the 1980s and ‘90s and was once described as a “laddered blue-stocking falling down the leg.”
Kerry O’Brien is a musicologist who specializes in experimental music, minimalism, and countercultural spirituality. She has taught at Yale University and Indiana University, where she earned her PhD in musicology. O’Brien currently teaches at Cornish College of the Arts and is affiliate faculty at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has recently presented her work at national meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Minimalist Music, the New Music Gathering, and the 2018 symposium “After Experimental Music.” Her research has been published as a chapter in the volume Rethinking Reich (Oxford University Press, 2019), as well as in the Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung, NewMusicBox, The New York Times, and the New Yorker online. Her research has been supported by a Presser Foundation Music Award, a Paul Sacher Stiftung Research Grant, a Getty Research Library Grant, and an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women.
Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016) celebrated the sounds considered marginal by others, coining the term Deep Listening to describe what it meant to listen “in every possible way to every thing possible to hear no matter what you are doing.” Oliveros was a pioneer of electronics, meditative music, improvisation, alternate tuning systems, contemporary accordion playing, and multimedia events. Her work with myth, ritual, and the environment had a profound influence. Oliveros was a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s and served as its first director when it moved to Mills College, where she was the Darius Milhaud Artist-in-Residence. In 1967 she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, where she taught until 1981. She was later appointed Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY. Among Oliveros’s many achievements were winning the Gaudeamus Composition prize (1962), representing the U.S. at the World Fair in Osaka (Japan), being honoured with a retrospective at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., receiving a letter of distinction from the American Music Center, winning the the John Cage Award (2012) of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the GigaHertz Preis from ZKM Karlsruhe for lifetime achievement in Electronic Music, the Resounding Vision Award for Life Time Achievement from Nameless Sound in Houston, and honorary membership in the Society for American Music. In Consideration of the Earth (1998) invites performers to play according to the feeling of the East, the South, the West, the North, finally interacting with the qualities of the Centre. Rock Piece (1979) involves maintaining a steady pulse, without any rhythmic interpretation or accents. Participants who perceive that they are synchronizing, or in a simple multiple or division by 2 or 3 of another pulse, stop to listen and begin a new pulse that is independent in rate from all other pulses.
Michael Parsons (born 1938) has been active as a composer, performer, writer, and teacher since the 1960s. His early compositions were influenced by Schoenberg, Webern and the European avant-garde, but during the 1960s he became more involved with indeterminacy and experimental music. In 1969, he was co-founder with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton of the Scratch Orchestra, a large collective group of musicians, artists, and improvisers dedicated to subverting and redefining attitudes to musical performance. He wrote Walk in 1969 for the Scratch Orchestra and walkers everywhere. While teaching in art schools in the 1970s he was associated with the Systems group of visual artists and wrote participatory pieces for untrained performers and environmental works, such as Echo Piece (performed on a frozen lake in Finland in 1976). In 1996-97, he was composer-in-residence at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. Previously a classical scholar, he has also written a number of settings of early Greek lyrics, inspired by and dedicated to the Finnish vocal ensemble Fiori, with whom he works regularly. Recent works include versions of choral odes from Sophocles’ Antigone, Three Sappho Lyrics, settings of Alkman and Ibycus, Paraphrase for orchestra (Basel Sinfonietta commission, 2011), Nevrazumitelny (2013) for the Vocal Constructivists, and Concertante, for Tania Chen (Spitalfields Festival commission, 2014), and Saitenspiel (BBC SSO commission, 2020), which premiered at Tectonics 2021. His Silence and Waiting (2019) sets words adapted from “An Expedition to the Pole” by Annie Dillard.
Aki Pasoulas is an electroacoustic composer, Senior Lecturer and the Director of MAAST (Music and Audio Arts Sound Theatre) at the University of Kent. He is the Principal Investigator of the research project ‘Sonic Palimpsest’, which explores the role of sound in influencing our experience of spaces and places, focusing on heritage sites and the recreation of past soundscapes. His research interests include acousmatic music, time perception in relation to music, psychoacoustics and sound perception, spatial sound and soundscape ecology especially in relation to listening psychology. He has written for instruments, found objects, voice, recorded and electronic sound, composed music for the theatre and for short films, and organised and performed with many ensembles. His scholarly and music works are published through EMI/KPM, ICMA, Sonos Localia, HELMCA, Pinpoint Scotland, Cambridge and Oxford University Press. Aki received honourable mentions at international competitions, and his music is continuously selected and performed at key events worldwide. (https://akipasoulas.com)
Lauren Redhead is a composer, performer, and musicologist. Many of her compositions have been published by Material Press (Berlin), and her most recent albums have been released on the pan y rosas discos label (Chicago). As a composer she is interested in notation and materiality, increasingly using a combination of experimental approaches to the creation of scores and electronic materials, and improvisation, to realise her projects. Her music has been presented at festivals in the UK and internationally, including at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, TRANSIT, the London Ear Festival, London Contemporary Music Festival, Firenze Suona Contemporanea, Composer’s Marathon V (Vienna), Full of Noises Festival, and the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival. In her writing about music, she focuses on the aesthetics and socio-semiotics of 20th and 21st century musics. Recently, she has published on the music of composers Michael Finnissy, Chris Newman and Annette Schmucki. She also writes about the phenomenon of practice research. Lauren is Senior Lecturer in 20th and 21st Century Music at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Margrit Schenker (born 1954) is a Swiss composer, improviser, organist, pianist, and accordionist. She lives in Zurich, where she teaches and performs. She has written for a variety of orchestral and chamber instruments, accordions, vocal ensembles, and for dancers. Her work has been performed at many notable venues and festivals: the AUA Festival Basel, andere Musik Festival, Teufelhof Basel, Rote Fabrik, and Kunstakademie Düsseldorf among others. Schenker has been commissioned by the Singfrauen of Zurich, and has collaborated extensively with choreographers and visual artists. Working closely with Pauline Oliveros, she organized Deep Listening workshops in Switzerland, and was Artist in Residence at the Pauline Oliveros Foundation from 1993 to 1994. Birds on a Long Wire (2021) is an environmental observation, with movements dedicated to and featuring the voices of 14 endangered birds; it uses archived recordings from the Vogelwarte in Sempach, Switzerland. Textual material is drawn from the journals of Gilbert White (1720-1793), and from The Earthworm Also Sings by Pauline Oliveros.
Adam Tinkle creates, teaches, and writes about music, sound, media, installation, auditory culture, social participation/cooperation and performance. At the center of his work are strategies for artistic engagement, interactivity, and pedagogy that draw on experimental music. A Wesleyan alum with a PhD from the UCSD, he is director of the John B. Moore Documentary Studies collaborative at Skidmore College, where he teaches courses in sound, media studies, and co-creative modalities. He is an improvising woodwind player, singer-songwriter, electronic musician, video artist, and creator of audio narrative works. Adam collaborates with animals, amateurs, students, kids, strangers, and communities. In 2010, he co-founded the Universal Language Orchestra, a group of elementary-aged novice musicians that composed, improvised, and built their own instruments. The SoundMind workshop series (2016–), deeply influenced by his studies with Pauline Oliveros, combines meditation, sensory awareness, and aesthetic activation of the breath, body, and voice, exploring resonance and vibration through touching, listening, and collaborative creation. He has produced an audio drama with Marina Abramović and Kim Stanley Robinson, and an immersive, head-reactive (or “ambisonic”) sound design and musical score for “How to Tell a True Immigrant Story,” an award-winning 360 VR film, and is currently co-producing a podcast called Pandemic Bardo, about the resonances of Tibetan teachings on death and dying in the age of COVID-19. For more, see www.riskyforager.com, www.adamtinkle.com
Ben Zucker practices acts of conceptual juxtaposition and experiential speculation, as an intentionally wide-ranging composer, audiovisual artist, and multi-instrumentalist. He has contributed to experimental music scenes of the Bay Area, Connecticut, London, Chicago, and beyond, working with musicians including Anthony Braxton, Matana Roberts, Myra Melford, Karen Borca, The Crossing, The Vocal Constructivists, Rinde Eckert, and the San Francisco Choral Artists, in addition to frequent performances as a soloist, bandleader, and ensemble contributor. His composed works have received awards and performances by ensembles including the Mivos Quartet, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Khorikos, Ensemble Entropy, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, as well as being performed at DOCNYC, the Darmstadt Fereinkurse, Art Omi, Trinity College Dublin, and the Banff Centre. He has been acclaimed as a “master of improvisation” (IMPOSE Magazine) and “more than a little bit remarkable” (Free Jazz Blog) for his solo albums combining brass, percussion, voice, and electronics, released on labels including Not Art Records, Dinzu Artefacts, Verz Imprint, and I Low You. He currently lives in Chicago, studying, performing, teaching, and organizing as a doctoral student at Northwestern University.
The Vocal Constructivists
Founded by Jane Alden in 2011 to give the first all-vocal performance of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1967), the Vocal Constructivists now have an established reputation for offering adventurous performances, live and online. Coming from diverse backgrounds that include classical music, dance, mime and noise art, they specialize in the realization of works in open notation. Featured composers include Mark Applebaum, Robert Ashley, Wojtek Blecharz, Anthony Braxton, Neely Bruce, Zeynep Bulut, Jan Duszyński, Carole Finer, Ron Kuivila, Paula Matthusen, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Parsons, Tom Phillips, Lauren Redhead, Bogusław Schäffer, Margrit Schenker, Tomasz Sikorski, and Christian Wolff. Drawing on a variety of artistic influences—classical, global, avant-garde, eclectic, and dramatic—the group has commissioned over twenty works, making them an important force in new music-making. Their vivid musical presentations result from extensive engagement with composers and with source materials. They have performed at the Arcola Theatre, Café Oto, The Forge, Jack (NYC), Peckham multi-storey car park, St John’s Smith Square, South London Gallery, V22 Summer Club, and Wesleyan University (CT). They were Ensemble-in-Residence for the 2013 Time Stands Still Notation festival, at the 2013 London Contemporary Music Festival, the 2014 Music and/as Process conference, the 2015 Stoke Newington Contemporary Music festival, the 2016 Dublin Ideoprenurial Entrephonics sound art festival, and were the closing act of the Southbank Centre’s 2016 Deep Minimalism festival. The Vocal Constructivists gave a series of tribute concerts in memory of Pauline Oliveros in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, they staged Tom Phillips’ 1969 opera Irma at Lumen Church, were the featured ensemble for an event at the British Library to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Scratch Orchestra, and premiered pieces by Wojtek Blecharz in the JEMP: MECHANICAL festival at the Swiss Church, London. Committed to cross-generational work, the Vocal Constructivists adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic by launching a youth participation scheme, online + in person collaborative performances, and a collective performance curated by a cyborg editor. They commissioned a new piece by Swiss composer Margrit Schenker that intersperses recordings of endangered birds with music for harpsichord, flute, accordion, electronics, and sung and spoken voices and were featured in an installation at Tabakalera Contemporary Art Centre in San Sebastián, Spain, where their recording of Oliveros’ Sound Patterns played every 30 minutes for five months (December 2020–May 2021). Experimentalism is a primary motivation, propelling the group away from an expected sound world. The Vocal Constructivist’s album Walking Still is available on the Innova label (#898). Follow us on FaceBook, @constructivists on twitter and @vocalconstructivists on Instagram.
2021 Festival Performers
Alison Cross, Barbara Alden, Ben Zucker, Celia Jackson, Charles Céleste Hutchins, Chau-Yee Lo, Jacob R. Miller, Jane Alden, Linn D., Margrit Schenker, Nick Burnham, Rebecca Hardwick, Sally McCorry, Simon Walton, and Suhail Yusuf
Special thanks for the amazing behind-the-scenes help provided by Brent Wetters, Grant Cook, Jefferson Randall, Neely Bruce, Niamh O’Sullivan, Nir Bitton, Richard Duckworth, Stan Scott, and for the support of Wesleyan University